For years, many EMM vendors have partnered with Nitrodesk to provide their customers with mobile email clients. This week, Nitrodesk announced their own email client management platform, called Cockpit. I caught up with Nitrodesk COO Ron Goins to get the details and find out how Cockpit fits in the EMM landscape.
Nitrodesk’s email app, called Touchdown, is a third-party Exchange ActiveSync client that’s been around for Android for a quite a while, and more recently for iOS, Windows, and Mac OS X. Aside from the usual benefits of these types of apps (abstracting email management and policies from device management), Touchdown is known for supporting way more Exchange features than most other mobile email apps—especially the ones built into iOS and Android.
Touchdown is available directly to consumers as a freestanding app, but NitroDesk also has partnerships with pretty much every EMM vendor out there. Aside from setting up Exchange accounts, third-party EMM servers can be used to manage other aspects of the app, like data sharing, encryption, remote wipe, and passcodes.
Alternatively, the Touchdown client can be centrally configured without using a third-party EMM server. Administrators can create an XML configuration profile, put it on the IIS server that hosts Exchange ActiveSync, and Touchdown client apps that connect will be configured appropriately.
With this week’s new announcement, the previous configuration and management capabilities are being rolled up into a new cloud-based management console, called Nitrodesk Cockpit. (Side note: this puts it in the category of manageable apps that don’t need additional MDM or MAM that I wrote about last week.) This will make it easier for non-technical folks to manage the app, too.
The idea behind this is that for many companies right now a managed email app is all they really need. If they don’t need advanced MDM capabilities, and if they’re not yet to the point of trying to integrate multiple apps together on the device, then Cockpit hits a sweet spot. As an added bonus, Nitrodesk also announced that Touchdown will soon have built-in document editing capabilities, so users can get more work done without having to move data into another app and expose it to the rest of the device. There will be sharing controls, and it will support Microsoft Information Rights Management features
There’s a particularly strong case for using Touchdown on Android—many companies just don’t want to deal with the native email client and the unpredictability the comes with different devices, so standardizing on a third-party app is a common choice.
However for iOS things aren’t quite so clear-cut, and there can be a lot more resistance to third-party email apps. If you decide on using Touchdown you have two choices: for users that want use the native client, they can do that as long as you’re okay with just basic Exchange ActiveSync management. But if you need total control, or want to be certain you can wipe the email client without having to wipe the device, you’ll just have to ask everybody to use Touchdown. There’s no middle-ground option.
On the other hand, now that iOS has background app data refreshing, third-party apps like Touchdown should be getting more appealing, so this issue isn’t as dire as it used to be. (I just started using Touchdown yesterday morning and so far it seems pretty fast. I also like that is has a good week view in the calendar and out of office support.) Still, I like the idea of letting the users choose, if at all possible.
The interesting thing is that some Nitrodesk’s EMM partners have actually started offering their own email apps, in addition to Touchdown. (For example, see the recent AirWatch Inbox announcement.) I asked Ron if that was a challenge for Nitrodesk, but he said the motivation for Cockpit just came from customer requests for a simple email container.
Cockpit is being positioned as lightweight alternative to full-blown EMM offerings with a price to match, planned at somewhere in the neighborhood of a dollar per user per month. Seeing as how we’re still in the early stages of EMM, there should plenty of space for both Cockpit and full-featured EMM offerings, Nitrodesk has the advantage that it’s been known and trusted in the mobility space for quite a long time, and for a lot of companies, at least for right now, Cockpit will be just right.